Rakvere is hosting the first ever ‘Estonian Sauna Festival’

There will be more than 20 Estonian saunas to try out.

Adam Rang
Estonian Saunas magazine
7 min readMay 30, 2019

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The local government in Rakvere has organised the first ever Eesti Saunafestival (Estonian sauna festival), which will take place over the weekend of 8 and 9 June, 2019.

Rakvere in Lääne-Virumaa (Lääne-Viru County), northeast Estonia, is the fifth largest town in the country.

The central square, Rakvere keskväljak, will be enclosed by a two metre high barrier creating a secluded area in the centre of the city with 20 saunas to try out inside under the guidance of different Estonian sauna masters. There will also be a changing area with clothes and luggage storage, a dining area with a bar, live music, and a children’s playground.

The organisers say the aim is to introduce and preserve Estonian sauna culture so that it can grow, develop, and continue to be enjoyed into the future.

Visitors can expect to find some truly weird and wonderful Estonians saunas, including the largest tent sauna in the country. This can fit 50 people inside at a time.

There’s also this bus that has been converted into a ‘Sauna Express’.

Eesti Kaitseliit (the Estonian Defence League) will be bringing a mobile sauna from their Alutaguse unit in eastern Estonia. Their sauna fits 12 people.

Järva-Jaani Tuletõrje Selts, a fire society that runs a museum in Järve county, will be bringing not one, but THREE saunas inside fire trucks. They have a Ford 600 built in 1956, which has now (somehow) been turned into a smoke sauna that can fit six people at a time, a Mercedes Benz 1113 from 1973 that has a sauna inside for ten people, and finally a 1960 Magirus Deutz with a tünnisaun (hot tub) in the back.

Perhaps the most eye-catching sauna will be this ‘Baba Jaga’ sauna made by wood-carvers. In Russian folklore, Baba Yaga is an infamous witch who lives deep in the woods in a hut that stands on chicken legs. Baba Yaga literally means ‘grandmother on chicken legs’ in Russian.

The Baba Yaga sauna looks exactly what you’d expect from the folk tales. It fits four people at a time and can reach 120 degrees celcius.

A 1984 Audi has had its interior stripped out so that it can be transformed into a sauna. The steering wheel and sound system is still there, but there’s a stove where the engine used to be and the seats have been replaced by wooden panels. The owners have also LED lights so the sauna can be enjoyed long into the night.

The schedule for the sauna rituals is below. It will be primarily in Estonian, but everyone is still welcome. There are some very interesting sauna masters leading the rituals, including people who do it full time and several public figures who happen to love saunas — like Baruto who was recently elected to Parliament but is better known in Japan as a sumo wrestler!

The local government will probably be hoping to replicate the success of Otepää’s ‘European Sauna Marathon’, which grew from a small local event in the winter capital of Estonia to a large international event that now attracts hundreds of visitors — and media coverage — from around the world.

EDIT: Since publishing this story, a few people got upset on social media because the first ‘Estonian Sauna Festival’ is not the first sauna festival in Estonia. To be honest, I thought that point would have been obvious, especially as we promote other sauna events across Estonia on this blog too.

However, I’ve changed Estonian sauna festival to ‘Estonian Sauna Festival’ in the headline to make it a bit clearer. I also want to make a wider point. The city of Rakvere has specifically designed this event to celebrate what makes Estonian sauna culture unique and special so they’ve managed to bring saunas and saunamasters from all over Estonia for the first event. There are other great sauna events in Estonia too, but they have a different focus and purpose (which is also a good thing). The Tallinn Sauna Camp, for example, is for non-Estonian visitors so is clearly not comparable. It’s worth noting that the city of Otepää also received a lot of criticism for calling their event the ‘European Sauna Marathon’ without much justification. It was meant as a joke, of course, but they’ve had the last laugh because the event has genuinely grown into a relatively large international competition. I hope Rakvere has similar success with this project.

So Rakvere does have the right to call this event the first ‘Estonian Sauna Festival’ and they deserve praise for what they are doing. When people work to spread awareness of Estonian sauna culture then it benefits everyone with an interest in Estonian saunas, including people with other events. So don’t just complain, join the celebration and keep telling us about other sauna events we can join and write about (although perhaps a bit more politely!)

How to attend the Estonian Sauna Festival

Tickets for either day of the Estonian sauna festival cost €15.50 and can be purchased here.

It’s easy to get a train or bus from Tallinn and both take about 1.5 hours and cost about 5 euros. It’s also en route to St. Petersburg.

One person has already posted in the Facebook group for Fans of Estonian Saunas to say they plan to visit during their travels from Helsinki to St. Petersburg.

About ‘Estonian Saunas’

Thanks for reading. The Estonian Saunas blog is run by Anni and Adam, explorers and exporters of Estonian saunas.

Anni is a green building specialist who grew up here in Estonia immersed in sauna culture, while Adam is a väliseestlane (‘foreign Estonian’) whose family were exiled to the UK during Soviet times but he has now returned and is still trying to understand the sauna — and everything else about his Estonian heritage.

Together, we love finding weird and wonderful saunas all over Estonia and telling the world about them. Check out our plan to make 100 Estonian saunas more famous around the world.

We also offer two saunas in Tallinn that you can visit. Both are based on the best of Estonian design and technology, although in very different ways. The first is our smoke sauna, Rangi saun, which combines an ancient sauna heating technique with a contemporary Estonian design. The second is our WiFi-controlled e-sauna, Tondi Saun, which is part of our apartment that you can book through Airbnb.

In addition to reading our blog, you can follow Estonian Saunas on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. There’s also a Facebook group for fans of Estonian saunas where you can share advice and stories.

Finally, you can email us at tere@estoniansaunas.com.

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Adam Rang
Estonian Saunas magazine

Saunapreneur at EstonianSaunas.com. Previously Chief Evangelist at Estonia’s e-Residency programme.